Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Discoveries in neuroscience

09.08.2004


Malaria drug blocks brain conduits, a boon for neuroscience research

Brown University researchers have discovered that mefloquine, an anti-malarial drug, blocks two gap junction proteins, or connexins, in low doses and with very few side effects in the brains of laboratory mice. The work opens an important door: Connexins found in high concentrations in the brain are believed to play a critical role in movement, vision and memory.

To understand how these communication "tunnels" work, scientists must be able to shut them off. Once those tunnels are disabled, researchers can pinpoint the information that connexins pass between nerve cells and determine how that information affects how the body’s development and function.



A technique already exists to study connexins.

Scientists can remove, or "knock out," genes that hold the recipe for connexins, then study the results in mice. But the Brown University scientists who worked on the experiment – Barry Connors, professor of neuroscience, and Scott Cruikshank, research associate – said "knockout mice" aren’t a perfect model. As mice – and humans – grow, they can compensate for missing genes by turning other genes on or off and cooking up other protein recipes. These biochemical changes can make it difficult to recognize connexins’ role.

But mefloquine in adult mice precisely and potently blocks connexins called Cx36 and Cx50. There are about 20 kinds of connexins in the brain and eye, as well in organs such as the heart, liver and pancreas. Cx36 is found in the brain; Cx50 is located in the lens. By specifically blocking them, Cruikshank said mefloquine will be a useful tool for electrical synapse study.

"Mefloquine isn’t a magic bullet, but it seems to be better than anything out there," he said. "It’s a lot more selective, so it has real utility for science."

Connors said the discovery, detailed in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for the week of August 2, could shed light on the cause of epilepsy and seizures. Scientists suspect that a Cx36 mutation causes these common neurological conditions, which occur when the messages swapped between synapses get scrambled. Meanwhile, a Cx50 mutation can form cataracts in mice.

"Electrical synapses were only discovered in the neocortex of mammals five years ago," Connors said, "so they are still a mystery. What do they control? How? When? These are big questions in neuroscience and this drug will help us answer some of them."

Conducted with scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and funded by the National Institutes of Health, the research offered up an intriguing secondary finding.

In rare cases, mefloquine can cause anxiety, panic attacks, depression and other psychotic side effects. Doctors have never understood why. Connors and Cruikshank said their research may hold the answer: Connexin shut-down in the brain.

Wendy Lawton | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.brown.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel 'repair system' discovered in algae may yield new tools for biotechnology
29.07.2016 | Boyce Thompson Institute

nachricht Molecular troublemakers instead of antibiotics?
29.07.2016 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Self-assembling nano inks form conductive and transparent grids during imprint

Transparent electronics devices are present in today’s thin film displays, solar cells, and touchscreens. The future will bring flexible versions of such devices. Their production requires printable materials that are transparent and remain highly conductive even when deformed. Researchers at INM – Leibniz Institute for New Materials have combined a new self-assembling nano ink with an imprint process to create flexible conductive grids with a resolution below one micrometer.

To print the grids, an ink of gold nanowires is applied to a substrate. A structured stamp is pressed on the substrate and forces the ink into a pattern. “The...

Im Focus: The Glowing Brain

A new Fraunhofer MEVIS method conveys medical interrelationships quickly and intuitively with innovative visualization technology

On the monitor, a brain spins slowly and can be examined from every angle. Suddenly, some sections start glowing, first on the side and then the entire back of...

Im Focus: Newly discovered material property may lead to high temp superconductivity

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Ames Laboratory have discovered an unusual property of purple bronze that may point to new ways to achieve high temperature superconductivity.

While studying purple bronze, a molybdenum oxide, researchers discovered an unconventional charge density wave on its surface.

Im Focus: Mapping electromagnetic waveforms

Munich Physicists have developed a novel electron microscope that can visualize electromagnetic fields oscillating at frequencies of billions of cycles per second.

Temporally varying electromagnetic fields are the driving force behind the whole of electronics. Their polarities can change at mind-bogglingly fast rates, and...

Im Focus: Continental tug-of-war - until the rope snaps

Breakup of continents with two speed: Continents initially stretch very slowly along the future splitting zone, but then move apart very quickly before the onset of rupture. The final speed can be up to 20 times faster than in the first, slow extension phase.phases

Present-day continents were shaped hundreds of millions of years ago as the supercontinent Pangaea broke apart. Derived from Pangaea’s main fragments Gondwana...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Clash of Realities 2016: 7th Conference on the Art, Technology and Theory of Digital Games

29.07.2016 | Event News

GROWING IN CITIES - Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Urban Gardening

15.07.2016 | Event News

SIGGRAPH2016 Computer Graphics Interactive Techniques, 24-28 July, Anaheim, California

15.07.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Vortex laser offers hope for Moore's Law

29.07.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Novel 'repair system' discovered in algae may yield new tools for biotechnology

29.07.2016 | Life Sciences

Clash of Realities 2016: 7th Conference on the Art, Technology and Theory of Digital Games

29.07.2016 | Event News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>